Sunday, January 17, 2010

My latest adventure (including background, so it's looooong)

It all started about four years ago when I mentioned on a Yahoo! Group that I was moving and the very sweet and timid Debbee took that opportunity to send me a private message asking if I'd considered buying.  Well, yeah I had, but not in Denver.  It's expensive in Denver!!  But as with my trip to New England in 2008, the seed of an idea was planted in my head and just needed the time to germinate. (the New England trip was planted in my head 14 months before it happened because my cousin Joyce's husband and sons stayed at my house for a week and at some point Joyce said anytime I wanted to come to NE I'd have a place to stay.  Dangerous words!)

So, since Debbee's actually sweet but not at all timid and took the initiative to reach out to a total stranger (of course she wanted to make a sale, but it was a great opening!), the wheels of my brain started turning.  I wasn't able to pull it off at that time and went ahead and renewed the lease on my apartment.  Over the next few years Debbee and I kept in touch off and on as I kept making excuses for why I couldn't buy (too much debt, not enough down payment!) and Debbee kept encouraging me in my college classes and whatever else I mentioned.

But I wasn't just sitting on my duff!  I had decided I really wanted to get out of communal living (well sometimes it seems like it - I can hear my neighbors even if I never see them!) and started taking steps to make sure that some day it would happen. As with many people my age, I spent money without a plan. At one point I had close to $10,000 in credit card debt and while that may not seem like much to some people, my annual salary and legitimate monthly obligations wouldn't have enabled me to pay it off for a long, long, long, long time.  If ever, if I didn't change my ways.

There are two distinct actions I began then to get myself out of that jam AND get myself into a house.  First, I absolutely refused any new credit card offers.  Every time I was in Kohl's or Target or Sears, etc., and they tried to sucker me into their store credit card "and save 15% today!" my standard response was "no thanks, I'm trying to buy a house and don't want any more hits on my credit report."  That always shut them up. ;-)

My second action was to work on a definite plan on HOW to pay off my debt.  I believe when I started this I had a loan with my credit union (probably one I opened to pay off a credit card that had spiked its interest rate) and two or three...possibly four(??) cards with balances.  I had always haphazardly applied money to each one and prided myself in NOT paying only the minimum balance.  Ever. But my friends DeAndrea and Chris told me about Debt-Free Workshop and I spent a rainy Spring Saturday in a church in Northglenn, CO, listening to Bob Marette explain how you can "be debt free in 5-7 years...including your mortgage."  Well, I didn't have a mortgage, so I figured I could do it in much less than 5 years!!

This plan works splendidly if you 1) make enough money and 2) don't put anything new on your credit cards.  Apparently I didn't meet either of those requirements and I kept having to readjust the "current amount due" on my amortization schedules. (I love Excel!!)  That's what happens when you don't make a budget and stick to it!  Unfortunately, I still haven't mastered that concept.  a-hem!

But then my mother died in June 2008 and my sister and I inherited some money.  Not a lot, although more than I make in a year so that was nice.  Well, not as nice as it would be to not be an orphan, but some things are completely out of our control.  When we left the Edward Jones office where we'd met with mom's (and now our) financial advisor Chris, I told Nicki and Brent I was going to use my money to help buy a house.  Nicki said she wanted to get new carpet for her house...she did and it's lovely!

The Edward Jones guy, Chris, spent many hours on the phone with me over the next several months helping me understand investing but also to get my ducks in a row to buy this dream home. He knew I wasn't going to leave my money invested through his firm for long, but he was awesome about helping me figure out how to bring my spending under control (although I still don't have a budget!) and finish getting my debt paid off.  Later that year I withdrew some money from my inheritance and used my income tax refund to completely pay off my debt!!!!! (and yes, I filed an income tax extension and got my money back in July or August.  and yes I know that's just letting the government use my money for free.  But do you drive slowly so you'll save money on gas?  Ok, get off my back!  LOL  ;-)

Let me recap that previous statement...I paid off all my debts in September 2008!!!!!!!  and !!!!!!!  ;-)

So, now I think I'm ready to do this and am getting anxious to start looking at houses!  I contacted Debbee and told I wanted to get the ball rolling.  I contacted my lender, Jennifer, and gave her the same news.  But I never made it past just looking at (and eliminating!) the listings Debbee sent me so I obviously wasn't completely serious about it yet.  Then in December 2008 I decided to change jobs and knew that wouldn't be a good time to buy a house!  But, I kept refusing new credit cards and somehow managed to stop all credit card offers from being mailed to my house!!  And best of all, I manage to keep of the good work of NOT carrying a balance on my credit card!  Woohoo!!!

January 2009 I'm hired as a "temp to hire" with an expected hire date of April.  Or maybe July.  April comes and goes and it's not even a blip.  In March they lay off 30 employees along with 15 or 20 temps.  The end of June my department manager pulls me aside and tells me he's terribly sorry but they didn't get authorization to hire me yet and if I needed to do something else he understood.  I know that's not just a way of trying to get rid of me because I know he and my direct manager are very happy with my work and very frustrated with the hiring process.  But they needed authorization from the president of our parent company to hire me!!!  Then in July they let another 30+ employees go and now all the temps are gone except for myself and one person in the shop.  How do you think that made me feel??  Very grateful, certainly, but also like I had a target on my forehead hoping it wouldn't be noticed my anyone who was close friends with one of the now-former employees!

My lender, Jennifer, offers to check into financing for me anyway but found out I wouldn't be approved for a loan unless I'd been with the temp agency for two years.  I certainly hope I'm not!!!  But she said once I'm hired it shouldn't be a problem as long as I have consequetive work history, along with good credit, etc.

In the mean time, I'm busy taking back-to-back classes from May to December and get sooooo burned out on school I'm almost ready to throw in the towel.  But that would NOT be cool because then I'd have to start paying off my student loans and that's not something I included when I said I paid off my debts in 2008! :-(

But finally, in October 2009 the authorization to hire comes through and on November 9, 2009 I start out my first work day since January as a "real" employee!   The $8000 tax credit for new home buyers gets extended into 2010 and home prices have only increased slightly since their plummet due to the recession.  AND interest rates are still sort of low.

So, that's the background.  I'm going to shut up for now because my poor aching brain insists it's at least an hour past my bedtime and really wants a full nights sleep tonight.

More later!

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